These Happened

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September 24, 2022- The little girl, no more than two, came up to me while I was sitting in my “director’s chair”, at the large music festival. She tried to climb on my lap, which, as I knew neither her nor her mother, I gently declined. Her mother came over and led her back to the spot where she was preparing the child’s stroller. With mother so occupied, the girl came right back, and tried again. This time, both mother and I explained that this was not something she should be doing. There was no yelling or finger-wagging, just gentle dissuasion. Conversely, while the mother said I should have ignored her daughter, that, too, is something one doesn’t do to a person who is experiencing so much, for the first time in her life. I feel that I have a duty before the Creator to lovingly assist other people, especially children, to the best of my ability.

Earlier today, a small group of us honoured a revered community leader and beekeeper, on the first anniversary of his passing. There was a man who embodied loving assistance to all he met. Even the bank manager, who oversaw his mortgage, was given instructions on what to do with his house-upon the occasion of said passage. Hopefully, those instructions were followed and the home sold to the certain type of family who would honour its feng shui. The bees themselves were carefully dispersed to various other apiaries, prior to GK’s passing.

I went from the memorial service to VortiFest, in Sedona, particularly to meet up with a friend I had not seen in 2 1/2 years and to possibly see other friends from the Synergy/Apotheca complex. The centerpiece, for me, of the music festival, was an appearance by Camille Sledge, the scion of Sister Sledge, and her band, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. Camille, as it turned out, was off, touring with her mother and aunts, so PAO’s superbly talented instrumentalists managed a delightful and rousing 45 minutes of non-vocal ear candy, and got many of us, up and jumping around, much as they and Camille did, when I first heard them, four years ago.

That set was what brought about a brief encounter with a Sedona friend, that puzzles me, even as I write this. She greeted me, danced around for a bit, then spent the rest of the set alternately acting like she was scared to death of me and that I no longer existed. I will refrain from trying to explain that, other than I am aware of certain threats to her safety, from someone other than myself. He could have been around and have made his presence known to her. For a good part of the rest of the Festival, she was escorted by other men, including one of the security detail members, so who knows? For my part, I would not harm a hair of anyone’s head, much less a dearly loved friend of three years.

My newly re-connected friend served as a reality check on the whole matter, cautioning against personalizing the incident, in any way, shape or form. I followed her advice, knowing that forming a narrative, based on incomplete information, is worse than a fool’s errand. So, I headed homeward, ahead of the mass exodus that was sure to happen after the last set of the festival. Even having parked in a smaller lot, across the highway, I would have been stuck in the scrum of traffic, had I stayed to hear the last, excellent band.

Besides Afrobeat, there were two other fabulous bands that I did encounter: One was the festival founder’s group, simply named “Decker”. The other was a group called “G-Love”, which offered several peace-themed tunes, that were nonetheless rousing, and which had what seemed to be 2/3 of the audience standing and bouncing, in front of the stage. I chose to sit for most of that set, getting up mainly to take video of three friends who were wearing lighted costumes and were engaged in performance art. There was a third band, which performed well, but their vibe was a bit on the angry side. Turns out, they had a shortened set, due to some misunderstanding with the festival organizers. The final band, Arrested Development, a hip-hop group, also performed well, though I heard their offerings only as I walked back towards my vehicle.

So, that was Vorti-Fest, and my Saturday. This is also my 3000th post, on this platform. Goodness and ill abound in this life, and I do not hesitate to bring you both, in the right measure. My feelings right now are well-covered, if obliquely so, by Paul Simon’s “America”.

El Camino Real

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September 6, 2022, Gallup- Last night, it came to me that much of the messaging I’ve been getting of late, as to what course of action should be followed, has come to me through other people. This morning, though, the message was loud and clear-devote the morning to Taos and its surroundings, especially along El Camino Real-the “King’s Road” towards Santa Fe, along the East Rim of Rio Grande Gorge.

Taos has been a town through which I passed, not spending much time there-until today. With a commitment to myself to drive as far as this old mining town, I freed up a few hours to make friends in Taos, as well as time to stop and see people I love dearly in Santa Fe, Madrid and Moriarty.

So, parking KIA in a free dirt parking lot, I walked a long a row of art galleries, not purchasing anything this time, though I will spend more time picking out at least two art pieces, on a future visit, weather-permitting, in December.

Here are a few of the shops along Kit Carson Way.

View of Couse Center, a forum for promoting arts in Taos.
Garden in courtyard, Mission Gallery

As last winter’s New Mexico visit was centered on the O’Keeffe Museum, so I fully expect to devote a few hours to the Couse Center, in the days between Christmas and New Year’s. I will be able to get a good cup of hot coffee at World Cup, at the east edge of Taos Plaza.

Drink for thought, World Cup Coffee House, Taos
World Cup is the Taos link in my chain of connections

An energizing visit with a mix of very hard-working people and laid-back former attorneys and factory workers established this connection, much as prior encounters at Henry and The Fish and Double C’s Diner did for Santa Fe and Moriarty, respectively.

Like Santa Fe, Taos has La Fonda Hotel in its Plaza. Here is a look at the lobby and its hearth.

Lobby of Taos La Fonda Hotel
Fireplace, lobby of Taos La Fonda Hotel
Alley, off north side of Taos Plaza

After this, I went south, about three miles, to Ranchos de Taos, the original Spanish Land Grant settlement. Here, there is a smaller plaza, and Iglesia San Francisco de Asis.

This is the central church of Ranchos de Taos

Heading towards Santa Fe, I came upon a spot where Rio Grande is flowing rather rapidly, and another, where the river is more languid.

Note the small rapids in two spots along the Rio Grande. (East Rim of Rio Grand Gorge)

A few miles south, here is a fishing spot, favoured by local residents.

I will be back, again, weather-permitting, very soon. The rest of the day saw short, but very genial visits with friends at Henry & The Fish, Java Junction (Madrid) and Double C Diner,where I got a take-out meal, as it was too early for dinner. The chicken enchiladas were just as tasty, when I got to Colonial Motel, here in Gallup, as they would have been had I dined in. Having good friends at a coffee shop or eatery is even more important to me than the fare itself.

Finding friends all around, this has been a marvelous journey.

Highway 160, Old and New

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September 1, 2022, Walsenburg, CO- The message outside the Bistro was endearing: “In the quilt of life, friends are the sticks that hold the quilt together.” The Farm Bistro, in downtown Cortez, is a place that I have patronized each time, save one, that I have been in Colorado’s southwestern commercial hub, since 2015. What matters to me, about a business establishment, even more than its products, is the reception I get when I enter and how I am treated while there. The Farm Bistro excels in that regard. Heck, the manager even gave me a peanut butter cookie for having been patient while the staff was serving a tour group. As long as we have eyes, ears and hearts, it pays to use them in a way that reassures others that their efforts matter.

I left Kayenta, an hour or so southwest of Cortez, after a delightful breakfast, courtesy of Hampton Inn. Across the highway from the hotel, the full geologic variety of Kayenta is in view. There were numerous families, of different compositions and sizes, in the wing where I stayed, but all were quiet and considerate. The Navajo Nation is a place where face masks are still required in public, so there I was with an N-95. At least we don’t have to pull them up and down, with every bite or sip.

Before going to The Farm, I noticed a man sitting on the corner of a gas station lot. He had a sign that read: “It’s my birthday. Any little bit helps, and God bless.” This was a new one, and even though I normally don’t hand money to sign-bearers, the notion resonated that this was a real birthday of a human being, and he had one other companion, who was bringing him a ball cap, food and water. I gave him a bill and was thanked profusely. Then, I went and enjoyed a Yak Burger and salad at The Farm Bistro.

Going past Durango and Pagosa Springs, I came to Treasure Falls, a small preserve at the foot of Wolf Creek Pass’s formidable ascent. I had stopped briefly at the bottom viewpoint of this small cascade, a few times. Today, I hiked up to the Falls topmost viewpoint, where on a good day, one can feel the spray. Colorado has not had as much rain as Arizona and Nevada, this monsoon, so the Falls were not as potent as they have been in past years.

Nonetheless, the hike energized me, in the warm mid-afternoon, far more than an iced coffee would have.

I was a bit tired here, but the rest of the hike was energizing-and unlike some other walks I’ve taken, I stayed on the established path. A group of other men did not-and advised against following their route.

This poor little one was struggling in the afternoon heat.

Once back on the road, it was an easy drive up and over Wolf Creek Pass. I spotted an overturned semi-trailer, on the opposite side of the road, with a large sign that said “KEEP OUT!”. My guess is that it has been laying there for some days now. I drove on, through South Fork, Del Norte, Monte Vista and Alamosa, before dinner time came-and I stopped at Lu’s Main Street Cafe, Blanca. Milynn served up a sharp and well-prepared Stuffed Sopapilla. It is a fabulous place to dine, and a worthy replacement for Del’s Diner, in nearby Fort Garland, which closed during the pandemic and now sits, looking forlorn and sad, at the east end of town. My only caveat about Lu’s is that the waitresses are high school students and closing time, on a school night, is around 6:30. They at least take their schedule as seriously as they do their jobs. Milynn and her co-worker were pleasant, but made it clear that they needed to get done soon. Nonetheless, when I come this way again, I will stop at Lu’s, hopefully earlier than I did this evening.

I got into Walsenburg, about an hour later, settling in to Anchor Motel. Other than a brief, but loud, dispute between two apparently drunken men, the place has been quiet. Walsenburg is a businesslike, but friendly, town.

Rainy Day People

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July 25, 2022- The day has started off proactively. I was able to get an estimate on repairs to the Saturn, and this now goes to the insurance company representing the person who caused the crash on July 7. I sense that the relatively small amount of damage should not be difficult for that company to

The Parthenon, Natchez Trace, and The Sanctity of Family

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July 10, 2022, Florence, AL- The woman, standing 5’2”, and looking for all the world like a present-day Madonna, arrived at her family’s gathering, and instantly commanded the room. Her strapping teenaged son, who had been alternating between being a responsible big brother and goofing around, for the benefit of the three girls at the teenagers’ table, straightened up with a brief, sharp glance from Mama. Her husband, likewise, exercised a measure of control- distributing portions of food and drink from the adults’ table. to the teens and the younger children. The after-church dinner thus proceeded smoothly, in the small, cozy southern Tennessee eatery. I sensed, though, that there was nothing but love in this family-no patriarchy, per se, just a devoted couple who treasure all their children, and one another.

I had left my friends’ house, in a bucolic section of Crossville, a little after 10 a.m., stopping for a few photographs along the route I had taken to yesterday’s Food Truck event. The most breathtaking was this view of Sparta, TN, from an overlook.

I was given an inkling to spend a bit of time in Nashville, a city that I have tended to overlook, in many of the journeys across our home continent. So, a brief visit was first made to the Tennessee State Capitol.

I headed out of downtown, along a route that took me to The Parthenon, a recreation of the original building by that name, in Athens, Greece. Tennesseans treasure the Classical Age, and this museum is the centerpiece of Centennial Park, a vast and salubrious gathering place for all of Nashville. This lush urban park was dedicated in 1897, one year after the centenary of Tennessee’s statehood. Parthenon has two floors: The first hosts special collections of art; the present exhibit being selections from the private collection of James M. Cowan, a Tennessee native and businessman base din the Chicago area. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5e305abfabc0e4424fd1454a/t/5f0ceb6694be7a33f9f830bf/1594682228862/15139+Parthenon+Cowan+brochure_PROOF+%281%29.pdf

On the second floor, there stands an impressive statue of the Greek goddess Athena. Here are some scenes of the lady, the building and the park itself.

The true circumstances of this woman’s life are lost in the mists of time; yet it is clear that she had a powerful personality, being influential in a variety of areas, from education and craftsmanship to the conduct of warfare. That such personages were dubbed gods and goddesses, by pastoral people, is not surprising.

I wandered about the park itself, after spending about a half hour in the museum, which was about to close, anyway. Here’s Lake Watauga, just north of the Parthenon.

After this long overdue attention to the delights of Nashville, I headed west and took in a sliver of Natchez Trace Parkway, which I encountered while looking for Loveless Cafe, a small restaurant southwest of Nashville. The Trace runs for 440 miles, from Nashville to Natchez, and offers a fine cross-section of Southern wilderness.

The Falls themselves were a trickle, as were other waterfalls in the area. The South could use more rain, as could any number of places. I left the Parkway and spotted a sign for Hohenwald, a town whose name means “High Forest”, in German. It has a sanctuary for elephants and is a haven for people in recovery. It is also home to very devout people, including the family mentioned above. The women and girls were conservatively dressed; the men and boys looked more like they had been working a bit. Nonetheless, they were all very relaxed and could have been any close-knit family, anywhere-an attractive, happy bunch. The very sweet waitress took good care of all of us, and it made for a pleasant end to a solemn (Martyrdom of the Bab) but hopeful day. I came to this northern Alabama town, on the Tennessee River, around 9:30.

I will long remember the strong women, both real and stuff of legend, encountered today. It was interesting that, just before leaving Centennial Park, I encountered two young men who claim to worship God the Mother.

Division Street, and The Bonsai That Unite

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May 16, 2022, San Clemente- The drunken man, professing White Supremacy, yelled at me to “Get lost”, as I walked along El Camino Real, in this Orange County beach town. I guess the t-shirt I’m wearing, with its Baha’i logo, set him off. I kept walking and he drove off.
Baha’u’llah does state that “Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education, however, hath deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess.”- Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 259. Nowhere, of course, does He limit this bounty to any particular group of people.

Last night, at FOUND Hotel, in San Diego’s Little Italy, there were a few folks who were acting mighty lost, while saying they wished others-particularly the homeless who wanted to be let in, would get lost. No hostel, or residential hotel, is equipped to handle random homeless people wandering in off the streets. There has been progress made in sheltering, in many cities, but the task is looking Sisyphean. The number of units and condominia, catering to the uberwealthy are increasing at a rate outpacing those that provide for people in lower income brackets. Those who are experiencing homelessness, particularly in communities where housing costs are exorbitant-almost to an unconscionable level, are also finding their numbers increasing. Division Street, the nominal and actual social divider, of which Studs Terkel wrote in 1967, has become a metaphor for the country as a whole. Some hard decisions, regarding the accumulation of wealth, at the expense of a great many people, will need to be made in the not-too-distant future. Everyone will need to be at the table for this one.

I needed to change the channel in my head, after seeing so many people encamped in downtown San Diego, along Pacific Coast Highway and near Mission Beach. Revisiting Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden set the right tone. My focus was on the collection of bonsai, now at 18 and looking in on the koi, who were small when I was last there, in 2015.

Here are a few scenes from the Garden. The koi in the pond nearest the entrance have tripled in size, these past seven years.

Three types of bonsai: Pine, flowering and unflowered leafy are on display, in the Garden’s Bonsai Center.

My rejuvenation complete, it was an easy trip northward to Orange County, stopping briefly to complete some business at San Diego Baha’i Center, taking a detour to La Jolla’s sandy beach and another to La Cristianita Historic Site, in Camp Pendleton, which commemorates the first baptism in Alta California.

Tonight, I am comfortably at House of Trestles Hostel, amongst surfers and other lovers of the ocean. Here, everyone feels at home, even the dachshund-chihuahua mix.

Maternal

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May 8, 2022- The answering machine greeted me, both times, yesterday. There was thus no direct conversation between us-and I can hear a couple of people in my life saying: “Why only twice? Why didn’t you keep trying?” They don’t know my Mom. She was either out with family or friends, or was asleep from having been out with family and friends.

Keeping up appearances has never been her style. She honours each of us, three sons and a daughter, as grown men and woman, yet there is always the sense that we are still her babies. She has always greeted me, on my actual visits, or when we do connect by phone, as if I just came back from an errand around the corner. That’s because there is no separation in spirit.

Mom has been ever present, throughout the lives of each of us, and of our children-and my siblings’ grandchildren. I hold out hope that she will live to see my own grandchild(ren)-all in due time. There certainly has been no more powerful force in any of our lives than that of her love. The greatest proof of this was the love and energy she poured into the well-being of my late youngest brother. At no time did she, or my father, forsake that beleaguered soul, and he taught each of us how to love, in return.

When I next see Mom, in late June or early July, I have a sense that she will have a few stories to tell about this Mother’s Day. May it be so, for a few years yet.

Through A Water Wonderland

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April 5, 2022, Meridian, MS-

The train pulled out of Peachtree Station, nearly an hour behind schedule. We have made progress, by fits and starts, along the way towards New Orleans. Now, we are leaving the commercial hub of eastern Mississippi. This is where the Atlanta crew got off and a crew that will be with us, until New Orleans, has come on.

The journey from Atlanta was through rain, until we got to Birmingham.

Since then, the skies have been clear and the ground has been wet. Wetlands and rivers abound, through the central swath of Alabama and Mississippi. The Black Warrior and Tombigbee are particularly dominant. The former (below) has been made into a series of reservoirs.

Ms. Blackstone, sitting across from me, put the whole concept of why some of us go on journeys into perspective-and one that fits nicely with the conversation I had with my brother, Dave, last night. In her view, each of us who goes out each day, whether close to home or further afield, is on assignment from the Holy Spirit. This helps explain the seeming randomness of some of the events that take place-who we meet, where we meet them and the tenor of our interactions. It also explains both the pleasant and less than pleasant events that happen, and the lessons drawn from each. It also gives me an affirmation that I am on the right course in this life.

In a few short days, I will be back at Home Base, with a full slate of “assignments” from the Creator of us all. I wish Ms. Blackstone well, in her daily work and am certain that, despite the dark clouds that encircle so much of humanity, the forces of division and darkness that prey on the fears of so many will fall short in their efforts to ensnare the human race.

Through downpours, tornadoes, bombs and bombast, stay strong.

Hemingway’s Haunt

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March 24, 2022, Miami Beach-

This is not Papa Hemingway’s house. We never got over there today, but it comes close. This home is representative of the more modest homes in Key West, laid back but every bit as modern as any community in the United States.

Six of us came here, for a three-hour visit, which of course was extended to five hours-once traffic delays resulted in our Noon arrival becoming a 2 p.m. affair. We stayed in Key West proper until 6, then made stops for a couple of ladies to swim at Smathers Beach, as well as at the Southernmost Beach in the Continental United States and for my friends to get a drink at the Southernmost Bar in the Continental United States. We topped the day by taking in the sunset at Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key-home to Key Deer, a mini deer that is only found in the middle Florida Keys. We did not see any deer.

We did enjoy butterflies, though, and two raucous flamingos. One butterfly landed on my broad-brimmed sun hat and another on the shoulder of one of the ladies. I will share a photo of my butterfly attempted-hitchhiker, when it is sent me by my friendly photographer. Here, in the meantime, are the flamingos.

Here are a few scenes from the Southernmost Beach in the Continental United States.

Next is Smathers Beach, east of Key West.

Key West is a one-of-a-kind experience, even with a five hour drive from Miami.

Facing Down Machismo

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March 23, 2022, Miami Beach- The belligerent man demanded I leave the small gathering, to which I’d been invited by a fellow hosteler from Nigeria. The angry one’s tone was fueled by alcohol, but was rooted in machismo. His whole premise was that no other man (other than the African gentleman, whom he somehow did not view as a threat) should be present at the table, whilst he was socializing with four women.

He correctly stated that a man my age had no business “romancing” women young enough to be my daughters, or granddaughters. That’s where the righteousness began to fray at the edges. He himself was old enough to be the father of two of the ladies.

Machismo is a false flag, rooted in insecurity. When he saw that I was not moved by his anger, a thoughtfulness, rooted in surety, took hold of the man, and he apologized profusely for his earlier outburst. It helped that the ladies, one of whom was, and remains, not inclined to be friendly towards either one of us, were a bit put off by his vitriol.

I long ago turned my back on machismo, and embraced a more genuine and fulfilling sense of masculinity, which is rooted in the same personhood as femininity. The hopes, dreams, legitimate aspirations of all are to be cherished and supported, regardless of any outward trappings that house a human’s spirit.

With that, I simply close with a scene of a Miami Beach sunset.